Iridium Communications, a leading provider of global voice and data satellite communications, has announced a historic development for uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Iridium partner American Aerospace Technologies, Inc. (AATI) was granted a first-of-its-kind waiver from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct UAS surveillance of critical infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley on behalf of a multinational oil and gas company.

This waiver may serve as a tipping point for wider adoption of safe and scalable UAS operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Enabled by Iridium’s truly global L-Band satellite connectivity, AATI’s AiRanger is supporting remote aerial surveillance for the energy corporation’s pipeline and production facilities. Iridium’s low-latency network is providing reliable and cost-effective BVLOS connectivity, including remote Command and Control (C2) and Detect and Avoid (DAA) capabilities.

Flying over a pipeline network, the large drones (over 200 lbs.) will send information via Iridium satellites to quickly perform routine oil and gas pipeline inspections. Iridium partner Blue Sky Network customised the development and integration of its global, dual-mode SkyLink 7100 voice, data, and BVLOS terminal installed on the aircraft.

The Iridium Connected Skylink 7100 enables continuous tracking and C2 capabilities for aviation and UAV operations.

The Iridium Connected AiRanger is the first UAS to demonstrate compliance with industry consensus standards for the DAA system and meet FAA requirements for aircraft right of way BVLOS operations.

This milestone helps pave the way for companies to deploy BVLOS UAS to support operations and achieve higher situational awareness, lowering inspection costs and maximising value. The waiver demonstrates that Iridium satellite C2 capabilities can meet large drone BVLOS waiver requirements with the FAA.

“This certification shows innovation through the fusion of technology, partnership, and practical application,” said John Peterson, Executive Director of Aviation, Iridium.

“When aircraft manufacturers and communications providers get together, scalable business solutions can become a reality. Iridium and our partners AATI and Blue Sky Network are proud to lay the groundwork for scalable BVLOS operations and show what’s possible with reliable satellite communications.”
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